Statement on NAC Vote at U.N.

By Senator Douglas Roche, O.C.
November 10, 1999

  1. On November 9th, the U.N. First Committee adopted the New AgendaCoalition resolution with 90 yes votes, 13 no's and 37 abstentions. Lastyear's First Committee vote was 97-19-32. The heart of the resolution iscontained in Operative Paragraph 1: "Calls upon the Nuclear Weapon Statesto make an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the speedy and totalelimination of their nuclear arsenals and to engage without delay in anaccelerated process of negotiations, thus achieving nuclear disarmament towhich they are committed under Article VI of the NPT."
  2. Four NWS (the U.S., Russia, the U.K., and France) again voted no andChina repeated its abstention. In 1998 NATO, which then had 16 states,voted 0-4-12. This year, with 19 members, Turkey and the Czech Republicmoved from no to abstention, while Hungary and Poland voted no. Thus theNATO count was 0-5-14. Though some states (e.g. Azerbeijan, Benin) droppedto abstention from last year's yes, the effect of this was offset by 14 NATOstates together sending a message to the NWS that progress must be made.
  3. The Explanations-of-vote contained revealing observations. The U.K.said the NAC resolution was incompatible with the maintenance of a credibleminimum deterrence. France accused the NAC of having ulterior motives inchallenging the right to self-defence. The U.S. said it had already given a"solemn undertaking" concerning Article VI of the NPT and why should it beasked to give more? Canada, which abstained, praised the resolution butadded: "The nuclear-weapon states and their partners and alliances need tobe engaged if the goals of the New Agenda resolution are to be achieved."This was a tacit admission that the Western NWS (the NATO leaders) had tiedCanada's hands. Australia, which also abstained, said it did not want tochallenge the sincerity of the NWS commitment to the ultimate elimination ofnuclear weapons.
  4. It is disappointing that the leaders of the NATO countries could notbring themselves to vote that the Nuclear Weapon States make an "unequivocalundertaking" to engage without delay in negotiations to achieve nucleardisarmament. The present situation is truly alarming: the U.S. Senate hasrejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; the U.S. is preparing to deploya missile defence system over the objections of Russia and China; India ispreparing to deploy nuclear weapons in air, land, and sea; Pakistan, whichhas successfully tested nuclear weapons, is now ruled by the military;meaningful discussions at the Conference on Disarmament are deadlocked; thepreparatory conferences for the 2000 Review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty(NPT) have failed; the Russian Duma has not ratified START II. The gainsmade in the past decade on reducing the dangers posed by nuclear weapons arebeing wiped out. Immense dangers to the world lie ahead if the presentnegative trends are not reversed.
  5. We have offered logic, law, and morality to government leaders asreasons for them to move forward on nuclear disarmament. We are tempted, atthis moment, to despair that we will ever be heard. That is the wrongreaction. We are being heard as never before, and the proponents of thestatus quo are being forced to invent the most preposterous reasons tojustify their slavish adherence to weapons that have justly been called "the ultimate evil." We do not have the luxury of despair at thismoment. We must continue, with all our growing might, to speak truth topower.
  6. It is disturbing to be thwarted by a residual Cold War mentalitydriven by the military-industrial complex that infects the politicaldecision-making process with fears of an unknown enemy. It is myopic forNATO government leadership to live in fear of U.S. government retributionfor voting to advance nuclear disarmament. It is an abrogation ofgovernments' responsibility to humanity to stare silently into the abyss ofmore nuclear weapons.
  7. But rage bounces off the shields of denial constructed by thepowerful. It does little to berate government leaders. Those ingovernments and in civil society who have worked hard for the successfulpassage of the NAC resolution as a way out of looming catastrophe must behumble enough to recognize that there is still not a vibrant public opinionin our society against nuclear weapons. The public generally does not knowenough about the present situation even to be in denial.
  8. The time has come to inject renewed energy into the nuclear weaponsdebate. The sheer force of this energy must penetrate the consciences ofdecision-makers in the powerful states and thus transfer the nuclearabolition debate into a whole new field of action. We must rise up abovethe political, economic, social and cultural blockages to abolition andinfuse the societal and political processes with a dynamic of action. The approach I am calling for must be based on our overpowering love for God'splanet and all humanity on it. In this call to witness, we will find newconfidence in our ability to overcome the temporary denial by politiciansand officials who do not understand the power of this transformation momentin history.
  9. By coincidence, the NAC vote, in which the NWS are still showingtheir defiance, occurred on the tenth anniversary of the fall of the BerlinWall. The Wall fell because enough people created a force for freedom thatbecame unstoppable. The Wall of resistance to nuclear weapons abolitionwill also crumble when the non-nuclear allies of the U.S. demonstrate thecourage that we must give them. Already there are signs, in the speculationthat tactical nuclear weapons will be removed from seven NATO countries inEurope, that the NATO leadership is feeling this pressure.
  10. Our first task now is to give our complete support to the leaders ofthe New Agenda Coalition, telling them we will not cease our active supportof their efforts. Our second is to gather more strength among the public sothat even the most skeptical of leaders will feel a new heat on this issue.Our third is to be a witness in our own communities, each in our own way, toour unflagging desire to leave a world for humanity that will indeed benuclear-weapons-free.